Google Docs – The basics

You may have heard of Google Docs, but what are they exactly? Google Docs is part of the Google Apps family and is a word-processing program similar to Microsoft Word. It’s largely used for writing texts but things like images, tables, drawings can be added. It doesn’t have as many functions as Word, but that is kind of the point of it. It has most of the ones we need on a daily basis, without making it overly complicated. One of the killer features, as with some of the other Google Apps, is the ability to edit a document at the same time as someone else, and that all parties who have access to it, see the latest version of it.


Creating a new document

Let’s create a new document. In Google Drive, go to “New” then “Google Docs”. This will open a blank Google Doc.

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Finding your way around a Google Doc

Let’s look at the layout and briefly look at the menus.

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The main part of the document is the page in the middle. Once you fill the first page, it automatically adds a page below it, so it becomes one continuous document that you can scroll up and down on, using the scroll bar on the far right of the screen.

On top of the page, you have the ruler, which is useful for determining how your text is positioned on the page.

Above that is the toolbar, which contains the majority of the tools you’ll need to edit your document.

Above that are the drop-down menus.

Next to the menus, is where you can look into the revision history of the document. Another killer feature of Google Docs is that it saves every revision you make to the document, right back to when you first created it. You can also see who made those revisions. It’s extremely useful.

At the top of the screen you have the document title / filename. By default it’s “untitled document”.

Finally, on the right-hand side you have additional options, where you can quickly share the file, add comments, change from edit mode, and where you can access your account details.


What are in the menus?

Let’s briefly look in the menus so you get an overview of where to find things. The names of the menus describe the contents well.

File

These are options relating to the document as a whole.

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Edit

Options to edit the text.

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View

Options to change the way the page and screen look.

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Insert

Inserting things into your document.

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Format

Options to change the format of the text.

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Tools

Useful tools that help you do additional things with your text.

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Table

The ability to add and edit tables in your text.

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Add-ons

Additional mini-programs (“add-ons”) can be downloaded that add additional functionality to Docs. For example, here “Doc to Form” allows you to create a Google Form directly from Google Docs.

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Help

Not sure how to do something? Have a look in here.

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Notice in the menus the keyboard shortcuts are listed next to the option. Although optional, it’s good to learn a few of them as these will speed up your work.

Also, the options with an icon to the left of the text, for example, the printer icon next to “print” in the File menu, means that there is a shortcut on the toolbar (or for a couple of them, somewhere else on the screen).


What’s on the Toolbar

Finally, let’s have a quick look at the toolbar.

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Print; Undo; Redo; Paint format

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Page magnification; Styles; Font; Font size; Bold; Italics; Underline; Text & highlight colour

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Add link; Add comment; Justification: Left, centre, right, justified; Line spacing

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Numbered list; Bulleted list; Decrease indent; Increase indent; Clear formatting

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In later posts we’ll look at these in more details.

To start just click on the page and type away. The Doc will save automatically in the background.


eBooks now available on Drive, Forms, Sheets, Docs, and Slides:

Baz Roberts (Flipboard / Twitter / Google+)


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